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Bears, Jay Cutler say Josh McCown has place if he wants to return

Josh McCown was 3-2 with 109 passer rating five starts place injured Jay Cutler this season. He threw 13 touchdown

Josh McCown was 3-2 with a 109 passer rating in five starts in place of injured Jay Cutler this season. He threw 13 touchdown passes and one interception. | AP

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Updated: February 6, 2014 6:38AM

The topic of backup quarterback Josh McCown elicited the type of smile from starter Jay Cutler that only good friends can muster for each other. It was pleasant, a bit mischievous and sincere.

‘‘I’d like to see him come back,’’ Cutler said.

And Cutler getting a seven-year deal from the Bears won’t prevent that from happening. In a way, it might help to facilitate it.

‘‘There was talk about him retiring and there was talk about him getting other opportunities, and I think rightfully so,’’ Cutler said. ‘‘We’ve had candid talks about what he wants to do. I’ll let Josh address that when he wants to. I know we’d love to have him back.’’

McCown’s exceptional play — a 3-2 record in five starts, a 109 passer rating, a 66.5 completion percentage and 13 touchdowns against one interception — in place of an injured Cutler opened eyes across the league. He might be one of most in-demand free agents for the 2014 season.

‘‘[I’d] love to have Josh back,’’ general manager Phil Emery said. ‘‘I’ve expressed that to him. Josh, through his play, has earned the right to have choices. He’s got a lot of them, and he’ll have a lot of them.’’

As McCown told the Sun-Times last month, wife Natalie and their four children, who live North Carolina, will be the most significant factors in his decision about where he plays. But the comfort level they found with McCown in Chicago is significant.

Natalie called McCown’s performance this season with Bears ‘‘gratifying’’ and ‘‘rewarding’’ for him.

‘‘I can just tell he’s so happy,’’ she said.

McCown said this season flew by for him.

‘‘There’s been other years that we’ve done this, and it’s just felt so long,’’ McCown said.

Because he was signed to a one-year deal for the veteran minimum for 2013, the Bears can’t re-sign McCown until free agency opens March 11 and might not be willing to match what other teams can offer financially. But the Bears do have exclusive negotiating rights until then and a situation with coach Marc Trestman and quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh that McCown appreciates.

Emery also has shown he’s willing to commit considerable funds to a backup quarterback, having signed Jason Campbell to a one-year, $3.5 million deal in 2012.

‘‘[McCown] does know that he has a home here and that we’ll do everything we can to make it work if he decides he still wants to play here,’’ Emery said. ‘‘[I’m] very respectful of Josh. He’s a tremendous human being. He did a great job for the Chicago Bears. He deserves to have those choices, and he deserves the space and room to make them.’’

McCown’s impact stretched beyond his on-the-field performances. His relationship with Cutler was instrumental in the Bears’ offensive success.

‘‘We’d like to have him back in the building just because of the amount of work he does behind the scenes with the younger players and myself,’’ Cutler said. ‘‘Just the experience he brings to the quarterback room, it’s very valuable. We’ll see how that works out. The guys in the locker room are hoping that we see No. 12 back next year.’’


Twitter: @adamjahns

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